It’s likely you’ve tried out the free Ghostery browser plug-in to block ad networks and social widgets from tracking you online. But did you know Ghostery now has a free privacy browser app for Android? It’s available on Google Play and Amazon.
As you might expect, the app excels in privacy features. Trackers are numbered and blocked by default. If you click on the ghost icon, you can see what trackers are on the page and even unblock them if you so desire. You can whitelist a site, so that all trackers are active, or pause blocking.
Under settings, you can select whether or not to block popups, adjust text size, use auto-complete, and select the search engine. Duck Duck Go is the default. The options for blocking cookies are “always” or “never.” There are choices for clearing browsing history, cookies and site data, cache and auto-complete forms.
Regarding Ghostery Privacy Browser app permissions, I love that the reason the app needs access is explained on Google Play. Under location, the app needs permission to access "precise location (GPS and network-based)." Ghostery explained, it’s “needed to allow websites to use your location (maps.google.com). Each website must get permission from the user to use location, which the user can allow/deny for each website that requests it.”
Under Photos/Media/Files, it requests access to "modify or delete the contents of your USB storage" and to "test access to protected storage." The explanation: “Both of these are needed for the user to be able to download files from websites while using the app.”
"Full network access" and "write web bookmarks and history" are listed as permissions needed under “other.” Network access is “needed to let the app access the internet.” Under device and app history, it asks for access to "read your Web bookmarks and history." Ghostery said the “read and write your Web bookmarks and history” is “needed to import bookmarks from other browsers.”
Also as explained on Google Play:
The Ghostery Privacy Browser is free - we're supported only by our opt-in Ghostrank feature. If you choose, you can share information with us about the trackers you encounter and where you find them. We take this information - which is carefully curated and anonymized so it cannot be used to track users - and package it into reports that let site owners, brands, and advertising technology firms audit their performance and their relationship with each other.
Enabling Ghostrank is another option in the Ghostery Privacy Browser. That leads us to….
Ghostery Enterprise Solution
What some privacy-conscious users might not know is that 20 million users – half of Ghostery’s 40 million users – have opted-in to Ghostrank. Basically that means users agreed for Ghostrank to collect the trackers identified by Ghostery, the URL and page the tracker was on, if that tracker is blocked, the user’s country, the browser used, the protocol of the page—such as if non-secure code is found on encrypted pages, the time it takes the page to load, the tracker’s position on the page, HTTP headers and IP address, although the IP is not stored.
Then the data from Ghostrank is used for Ghostery's Enterprise Solution, the Ghostery Marketing Cloud Management (MCM). In November, when Ghostery won the DEMO God award at DEMO 2014, CEO Scott Meyer said that in one month, "the GhostRank real-user community saw over 11,000 non-secure tag loads on secure (https) pages across more than 80 salesforce.com domains."
Companies need to protect the security of their data in the cloud. A whopping 96% of the 50 leading sites studied have content that was not secure mixed in with secure pages; that can be due to technologies in the cloud. It could spook potential customers into not trusting the site as secure. Even if customers don’t know, Google does and ranks secure sites better than non-secure sites.
In one study that looked at thousands of websites, Ghostery found “that for every new tag you add to a page, you slow down your website by 5% (even asynchronous tags).” Ghostery also claims, “72% of technologies that top retail sites work with overlap with the competition, creating huge potential for your customer behavior data to be resold to your competition (we’ve seen it happen).” In fact, “the average website has more than 70 different trackers on their site and the IT department only knows about 30 of them.”
Speeding up a site’s load time is great, but securing data is even better. Many times when an organization is breached, the compromise actually came from a third party.
While I’m not a big fan of any kind of tracking, Ghostery says it “does not drop any cookies or digital trackers on consumers.” The Ghostery TrackerMap can help enterprises “pinpoint all the non-secure code on their sites.” It can also ensure the sites comply with ad and data privacy regulations. I am a big fan of data privacy and security, and sites that respect those as well; if you are so inclined, you can ask Ghostery for a no obligation website diagnosis.